Southwest Philadelphia bassist, composer, artist and designer Jamaaladeen Tacuma has a distinct curatorial style to go with his in-your-face aesthetics.
Whether it's his harmolodic/avant-garde display of jazz and funk (on a series of sensory-overloaded solo works since 1983, or famed wild sessions with the likes of Ornette Coleman), his sartorial splendor (what he wears or creates through his own Redd Carpet Room Fashion Styling brand) or how he books events and plans album releases through his Jam All Productions: all are, in Tacuma's words, groove-a-lcious.
"The music is powerful with emotion and intensity and, surely, will bring the listening to their dancing feet," says Tacuma of new Jam-All releases Gnawa Soul Experience (recorded in Morocco with local musicians and Philadelphians King Britt and Rick Iannacone) and The Outsiders 2nd Annual Improvised Music Festival 2016 Compilation (recorded at Philly's Clef Club with fellow free jazz giants like John Zorn). "My goal with curating Outsiders is to create an experience never seen or heard before at that very moment, one where each of us improvise creatively with the other. My concept of PhilAesthetic and FIERCE! holds different purpose. Here, musicians create and expound on compositions that have already been prepared and give audiences a sense of surprise, hearing familiar tunes in a hyped and modified way."
Tacuma is talking about June 24's FIERCE!, his playing and curation of a personal history of black music – Philly style – with his band (featuring drummer Chuck Treece), soul-singer extraordinaire Lady Alma Horton and funk-hop rapper-crooner Hezekiah Davis (Germantown neo-blues vocalist Bilal was is on this, but scheduling conflicts pulled him away). Tacuma was commissioned by Arch Street's African American Museum in the name of its summer-long "PhilAesthetic" celebration of the Black Arts Movement. Tacuma even promises that some fashion designs from his Redd Carpet Room will blossom forth that night.
"Philadelphia is the melting pot of all music and its influence stretches wide throughout this community," says Tacuma who grew up in North Philadelphia, attended The Uptown to get his fill of live R&B, and went on to play jazz influenced by Philly's Odean Pope, Sherman Ferguson, Tyrone Brown and Eddie Green of the legendary group Catalyst. "I started gigging with "The Mighty Burner" Charles Earland at an early age, then Ornette Coleman and his band Prime Time for 12 years," he says.
With "FIERCE!" however, Tacuma also wanted to stretch, to extend an invitation to his musicians and composers to "bring forth their compositions to enhance a futuristic concept of where the music is heading and the influence of the past and how the present and future generations will view the art form. I want to take tunes and turn them inside and out." For example Lady Alma has a stirring soul tune called "Happiness" that Tacuma promises will be propelled into the "Philly Phuture – that's the overall concept of a "PhilAesthetic" in my mind."
Lady Alma (she has another gig this month, June 29, with creamy crooner Donnie at Ardmore Music Hall) has known Tacuma for "absolute eons" as the two played in King Britt's Sylk 130 and assumed that "FIERCE!" would be an adventure. "I like to think what I do is an emotional mix of house, jazz, gospel and soul and that Jamaaladeen would know exactly what to do with that."
Hezekiah (born Hezekiah Davis III, also known as Johnny Popcorn on albums such as The Crow) is an old friend of Bilal with whom he is collaborating on an album, and has recorded with and for the great Lady in the past.
"Man, with her, I really need to step my game up – I love her so much," says Davis of the up-coming "FIERCE!" pairing. "Tacuma? This will be my first time working with him, and I'm sure I will walk away with some magic from this brother. It's all about relationships and timing. I'm going wherever the spirits take me, and I move by vibration."
Neither Horton, Davis nor Tacuma will be specific when it comes to what historic Black music they will assay, though its curator does promise "to leave the audience with memories of something that they have never seen before and fully representative of the vision of AAMP and its boss Helen Haynes." Press Alma just a little bit though, and she puts it into sharp focus. "When people say 'Black Music,' what can they mean? Black people play classical, play country, play punk. They play blues, house, jazz, hip hop and soul. Black people play everything," she says with a hearty laugh. "So expect anything."
The African American Museum presents FIERCE! with Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Lady Alma and Hezekiah Davis.